|Wednesday, 22 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, 06-09-06
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
 VIOLENCE LEAVES TWO DEAD IN KARELIA...Two ethnic Russians died in a brawl in the Chaika restaurant in the Karelian city of Kondopoga in the early hours of August 30, Russian media reported. Accounts of the incident and many subsequent events differ greatly, but it appears that the original clash involved ethnic Russians on one side and Chechens and Azeris on the other. Criminal, ethnic, and religious factors all seem to have been present in the ensuing tensions. The authorities appear to have done little to acknowledge or solve the interethnic problems that had been long simmering and responded to the latest violence only slowly. On September 2, about 2,000 people turned out in the center of town to demand that Chechens and other people from the Caucasus be expelled from Kondopoga. The protesters smashed some shop windows. Nationalist organizations, including the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) and the World Russian People's Congress (VRNS), seem to have played at least some role in the events of that day. Perhaps hundreds of Chechens and other people from the Caucasus have fled Kondopoga since the Chaika incident. The authorities have promised to check the documents of all residents from the Caucasus and expel those without proper papers. PM
 ...AS TENSIONS REMAINElite special-forces troops restored a degree of order after the September 2 rally in Kondopoga, Russian media reported. There have been repeated arson attempts against the Chaika, including several on September 4. There was a further attempt at torching a Chechen-owned food store on September 5, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. On September 4, a Chechen government delegation arrived to investigate the situation in Kondopoga. Meanwhile, about 200 members of the pro-Kremlin youth organization Nashi were bussed in from other cities to "help keep order," news.ru reported. Police are holding at least three Chechens in connection with the deaths of the two men at the Chaika. Police also arrested over 100 protesters on September 2 and have kept over 20 of them in custody. Kondopoga has a population of about 35,000 and is a center for the paper, pulp, and wood industries. The Chechens there are part of a large diaspora that left their troubled homeland in search of a better life and who have found a market niche as small businessmen and traders. Some local ethnic Russians complain that the Chechens monopolize trade in the private markets and engage in criminal activities. Some Chechens charge that they are the victims of shakedowns by local protection racketeers and that local authorities are insensitive to their problems. PM
 MANY QUESTIONS GO UNANSWERED...Following the September 2 demonstrations in Kondopoga, Karelian President Sergei Katanandov told local television that the disturbance was the work of "hooligans" and warned against "trying to give an ordinary conflict an ethnic character," Russian media reported. He subsequently told state-run national television, however, that "ethnic hatred was clearly a factor." Referring to the DPNI, he criticized "right-wing extremist organizations [whose leaders] have come here from Moscow for the clear purpose of engaging in acts of provocation," the daily "Kommersant" reported on September 4. But DPNI leader Aleksandr Belov charged that "the unrest could have been avoided if Moscow officials had come to Kondopoga right after the restaurant incident to head the investigation and take some [unspecified] measures. People don't believe that the local authorities have the will to punish migrants from the Caucasus. This lack of confidence was the catalyst for the mass protest." The daily "Vedomosti" commented that "the murder of two patrons at the Chaika...turned into a mass pogrom directed against migrants from the Caucasus. Experts say that this conflict in one of Russia's most peaceful northern regions indicates that the problem of ethnic hatred has become systemic in Russia." PM
 ...AS CHECHNYA'S PRIME MINISTER WEIGHS IN FOR DIASPORAPro-Moscow Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov told journalists in Grozny on September 4 that he is ready to help find ways of "normalizing the situation" in Kondopoga if the local authorities are unable to do so, news.ru reported. Referring to the violence against Chechens there, he said: "I am against it and I will not allow it. I will do everything to defend the rights of Chechen citizens. Those were not friends of Russia who [attacked the Chechens]. Someone put them up to this. We must approach this issue objectively and prevent such incidents from occurring again in the future." Kadyrov also noted that "the Kondopoga authorities agreed with the [September 2 demonstrators'] demands, and the text of the resolution adopted at the protest was signed [by some local officials]." PM
 RUSSIA CONCLUDES PIPELINE DEAL WITH BULGARIA, GREECEGreek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis said in Athens on September 4 that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin and Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov agreed to sign a deal by the end of 2006 to revive a project to transport Russian oil by sea to the Bulgarian port of Burgas and from there by pipeline to the Greek Aegean Sea port of Alexandroupolis, international media reported. It is not clear, however, if this will prove to be the last word on the subject. The governments of the three countries have bickered for over 13 years on important aspects, such as who will build the 285 kilometers of pipeline and who will own the terminals and take the transit fees. The pipeline will help reduce the risk of environmental damage that could result from transporting oil in ships through the Bosporus. The project is also seen as a move by Russia to strengthen its hold on the energy market in the region. Current high oil prices help make the pipeline economically viable, something that Russia has questioned in the past. PM
 RUSSIA TO SEND ONLY ENGINEERS AS PEACEKEEPERS TO LEBANONDeputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said on September 3 that Russia will send only engineering troops and not combat personnel to Lebanon as part of the UN peacekeeping mission, if the Lebanese government agrees, the daily "Vremya novostei" reported on September 4. The engineers will help rebuild bridges and roads. This is the first time that Russia has participated in a UN peacekeeping mission with only noncombat forces. There have been serious misgivings within the Russian leadership as to whether Russia should participate at all (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 24, 25, and 28, 2006). PM
 GERMANY DRAFTS PLAN FOR EU-RUSSIA RELATIONSAt the recent meeting of EU foreign ministers in Laappeenranta, Finland, Germany's Walter Steinmeier put forward a series of proposals for developing the EU's relations with Russia on the basis of an expanding network of interrelationships, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on September 4. He hopes to work out the project in cooperation with Finland, which holds the rotating EU chair through the end of 2006 and has placed great emphasis on expanding the bloc's ties to Russia. Germany, which takes over the chair in January 2007, wants to further institutionalize the EU's relations with Russia and seeks to create a free-trade zone and an "energy partnership." It is not clear how that partnership can develop, however, if Russia continues to refuse to ratify the EU's Energy Charter, which Moscow signed in 1994 and which would require it to open up access to its pipelines (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 17 and 18, 2006). Relations between the EU and Russia are currently governed by the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which runs out at the end of 2007. It is not clear whether Germany, whose business community tends to see Russia as an open frontier of opportunities no longer available at home, will be able to produce a plan that is acceptable to all EU member states, including some that are highly suspicious of Moscow, particularly when it acts in tandem with Berlin. PM
 RUSSIA REGRETS 'HASTY' RESOLUTION ON DARFURRussian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on September 4 that the latest UN resolution on Darfur should have been prepared in close cooperation with the Sudanese government, Reuters reported. He charged that Washington and London pushed through the resolution by acting "in haste without continued consultation with the government of Sudan, while we and China at the Security Council had hoped for continued consultations." Russia, China, and Qatar abstained in the August 31 vote. PM
 RUSSIA INDICTS JAPANESE FISHING BOAT CAPTAINRussian prosecutors in Yuzhno-Kurilsk indicted Japanese fishing boat captain Noboru Sakashita on September 4 for intruding into Russian territorial waters and poaching in an incident on August 16, "The Japan Times" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 1, 2006). He is expected to go on trial shortly. PM
 CHIEF JUDGE TELLS RUSSIANS NOT TO BECOME 'ZOMBIES'Valery Zorkin, who chairs Russia's Constitutional Court, said in Moscow on September 4 that the country's democratic development is not "irreversible" and warned against unspecified changes to the constitution that are not essential for "further development of the country," Interfax reported. He compared Russia's situation today to that of Germany soon after emerging from totalitarian rule. "One has to fight for democracy all the time," he added. Zorkin warned nonetheless that no constitution or court can protect people from democratically electing a bad leader. He called on people to make "sober assessments" of their government and not become "zombies." PM
 SALE OF INFLUENTIAL DAILY CONCLUDEDAlisher Usmanov, who is a metals magnate with close ties to the Kremlin, confirmed in the September 1 issue of the daily "Kommersant" that he has bought its publishing house (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 5, June 8 and 9, and August 31, 2006). He denied that he purchased one of Russia's few remaining independent newspapers at the behest of the authorities, calling it his "personal investment." Several observers have suggested that the sale of "Kommersant" is tied to preparations for the 2007 parliamentary elections. PM
Transcaucasia And Central Asia
 ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER WARNS AGAINST UN INVOLVEMENT IN PEACE TALKSForeign Minister Vardan Oskanian warned on September 4 that any UN involvement in peace talks with Azerbaijan would effectively end negotiations, RFE/RL's Armenian Service and Arminfo reported. Oskanian was referring to a joint appeal issued last week by Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine that called on the UN General Assembly to consider the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Oskanian is scheduled to meet with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Elmar Mammadyarov, sometime in the coming weeks in order to restart the stalled peace talks and prepare for a possible presidential summit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 1, 2006). Armenia has long opposed any UN involvement in the Karabakh peace process and has remained committed to maintaining the OSCE as the primary international body empowered to mediate the conflict. RG
 ARMENIAN PROSECUTOR CALLS FOR HARSH PRISON TERM FOR JAILED JOURNALISTState prosecutor Zhanna Kotikian called on September 4 for a harsh prison sentence for Arman Babadjanian, the jailed editor of the independent newspaper "Zhamanak Yerevan," RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Kotikian demanded a prison term of 4 1/2 years, arguing that Babadjanian committed a "grave crime" involving the theft and forgery of legal documents belonging to the family of a former friend living in the United States in 2002. The usual sentence in such cases is two to three years. Babadjanian faces charges of evading Armenia's compulsory two-year military service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 27 and 28, and July 3 and 7, 2006). RG
 OSCE OFFICIAL EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER AZERBAIJANI MEDIA...The OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Miklos Haraszti, expressed on September 4 his concern over the recent prosecution of journalists in Azerbaijan and called for the introduction of more comprehensive media reforms, Turan reported. In a letter to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Haraszti noted a "wave of oppressive lawsuits against journalists" and reminded the president of his March 2005 directive to public officials to reduce the extent of criminal charges lodged against journalists. A number of leading journalists and several newspapers have been routinely targeted by public officials in both civil and criminal lawsuits, with some receiving inordinately harsh prison sentences. Most notably, Interior Minister Ramil Usubov has brought five separate cases against journalists in the past few months alone (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 1, 2006). RG
 ...SPARKING RESPONSE BY AZERBAIJANI OFFICIALIn response to the criticism of the OSCE over Azerbaijani officials' use of lawsuits against the media, presidential adviser Ali Hasanov said on September 4 that the government has instituted significant media reforms, Turan reported. Hasanov explained that there is a "very pluralistic society" in Azerbaijan where "anyone can issue a newspaper." He further dismissed the OSCE's concerns as "unfounded," noting the adoption of a new law on the mass media, the reform of state bodies overseeing the media, and an easing of media registration and licensing procedures. RG
 ISRAELI ENVOY WELCOMES AZERBAIJANI DEPLOYMENT OF PEACEKEEPERS TO LEBANONIsraeli Ambassador to Azerbaijan Arthur Lank welcomed on September 4 the possible deployment of Azerbaijani troops as part of the UN peacekeeping mission to southern Lebanon, ANS-TV reported. Lank explained that Israel will be "very pleased" if Azerbaijan decides to participate in the peacekeeping mission and noted that the presence of troops from "leading Muslim countries such as Turkey and Azerbaijan could send a different message to the international community." Azerbaijani government officials are reportedly considering such a deployment, but may be awaiting a final decision by Turkey before committing forces to the UN effort. The Azerbaijani military has been developing an increasing capacity for peacekeeping missions in recent years, and its troops are currently deployed as peacekeepers in Iraq, Kosova, and Afghanistan. RG
 GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY DENOUNCES SHOOTING OF HELICOPTER CARRYING DEFENSE MINISTER...The Foreign Ministry issued a statement on September 4 denouncing the shooting of a Georgian military helicopter transporting the defense minister and other officials the previous day, the Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. The September 3 incident was confirmed by South Ossetian spokeswoman Irina Gagloyeva, who said that South Ossetian forces fired on the Mi-8 military helicopter, claiming that the aircraft violated its airspace. The helicopter -- carrying Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili, the deputy military chief of staff, and other officials on a flight to an air base in western Georgia -- was damaged but was able to land safely in Georgian-controlled territory. The Foreign Ministry statement further protested the influx of "illegal arms and equipment" into South Ossetia from Russia and called on the international community to condemn the incident as a "provocation" and "terrorist act." Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli also accused Russian military commanders of involvement in the attack, Rustavi-2 television reported. RG
 ...BUT DEFENSE MINISTRY RULES OUT RESPONSEIn a statement responding to the shooting of the military helicopter, the Georgian Defense Ministry stated on September 4 that no military units are to be deployed to the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict area in response to the incident, according to Caucasus Press. The statement sought to refute published reports that Georgian forces and military equipment were transferred to the area in preparation for an assault against South Ossetia. RG
 GEORGIAN MINISTER CALLS FOR NEW FRAMEWORK FOR TALKS WITH SOUTH OSSETIASpeaking at a press conference in Tbilisi, Georgian State Minister for Conflict Resolution Merab Antadze called on September 4 for the adoption of a new framework for negotiations over the South Ossetia conflict, Caucasus Press reported. Antadze explained that the current Russian-led negotiating format for resolving the South Ossetian conflict, composed of Georgian, South Ossetian, Russian, and North Ossetian negotiators, should be replaced by a new "bilateral dialogue," through a Georgian-South Ossetian "functional format" with external involvement limited to a reduced role as guarantors "to foster the implementation of a peace plan." RG
 PROMINENT GEORGIAN DEPUTY WARNS OF USING FORCE AGAINST SOUTH OSSETIAThe chairman of the Georgian parliamentary Committee for Defense and Security, Givi Targamadze, warned on September 4 that Georgia has not ruled out the use of "forceful operations" to resolve the South Ossetia conflict, Caucasus Press and Rustavi-2 reported. As a prominent deputy affiliated with the ruling National Movement party with close ties to both Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Defense Minister Okruashvili, Targamadze's threatening statement is seen as a possible reflection of amore aggressive government policy regarding the unresolved South Ossetian conflict, bolstered in part by the shooting of a Georgian military helicopter over South Ossetia. RG
 GEORGIAN OPPOSITION LEADER CRITICIZES U.S. GROUPS FOR INTERFERING IN LOCAL ELECTIONSSpeaking during a Tbilisi press conference, Georgian opposition Labor party Chairman Shalva Natelashvili criticized on September 4 U.S. groups for interfering in the lead-up to the country's local elections set for October 5, according to Rustavi-2 and Caucasus Press. Charging that foreign groups are "working to totally falsify" election results to ensure a victory by the ruling National Movement party, Natelashvili singled out several U.S. organizations, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the National Democratic Institute, and the International Republican Institute. Natelashvili has long been an outspoken critic of U.S. policies and has criticized the U.S. government for supporting the Saakashvili government at the expense of developing greater democracy in Georgia. RG
 UZBEK PRESIDENT VISITS KAZAKHSTAN...Islam Karimov visited Kazakhstan on September 4, meeting with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev in Astana for talks on bilateral relations, agencies reported. The two leaders agreed to hold military exercises and signed a number of cooperation agreements, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Nazarbaev, who visited Uzbekistan in March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 21, 2006), called 2006 a "breakthrough year" in Kazakh-Uzbek relations and predicted that the two countries can double bilateral trade volume to a total of $1 billion, Interfax-Kazakhstan and ferghana.ru reported. For his part, Karimov lauded Kazakhstan's "remarkable achievements" over 15 years of independence. Karimov also stressed that the two leaders "once again confirm our conviction that both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan see their future only with Russia," ITAR-TASS reported. DK
 ...AFTER INFORMAL 'WATER' SUMMIT OF FOUR CENTRAL ASIAN LEADERSNazarbaev and Karimov met with Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev and Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov on September 1 in Astana for an informal summit focused on water issues, Khabar television reported. Nazarbaev said after the meeting that the leaders are committed to raising the issue of restoring the Aral Sea. At a news conference on September 4, Nazarbaev once again addressed water issues, suggesting that the Soviet-era project of redirecting Siberian rivers toward Central Asia could be revived, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. Noting that the rivers could provide the region with drinking water, Nazarbaev said, "I have spoken with [Russian President] Vladimir Putin about the fact that statements about the harm of such a turn [of the rivers] are unconvincing." In closing, Nazarbaev stated that the issue should be "thought through." DK
 KAZAKH PRESIDENT'S SON-IN-LAW CALLS FOR MONARCHYIn a September 1 article in the newspaper "Karavan," Rakhat Aliev, deputy foreign minister and son-in-law of President Nazarbaev, suggested that Kazakhstan could be transformed from a republic into a constitutional monarchy. Arguing that "the republican form of governance does not protect nations from dictatorship or from putsches or corruption," Aliev said, "If we look at which political system has achieved obvious success in setting up a stable democratic society, strange as it may seem, the first on the list will be the monarchy." He concluded, "We speak here solely and exclusively of a constitutional monarchy, a liberal monarchy, and however paradoxical it might sound, a democratic one, with developed and really independent institutions of power -- parliament, government, independent judicial system based on the rule of law, and a responsible and independent press." DK
 MILITANT REPORTED KILLED IN KYRGYZSTAN...Rasul Okhunov, a suspected leader in the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU, aka the Islamic Movement of Turkestan), was killed in Osh on September 2 in the course of an operation by Kyrgyzstan's security services, ferghana.ru reported. Busurmankul Tabaldiev, head of Kyrgyzstan's National Security Service (SNB), said that Okhunov, a native of the Uzbek city of Namangan, was the organizer of a May 12 border incursion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 15, 2006) that left 13 people dead, akipress.org reported. Tabaldiev said that security forces tried to capture Okhunov alive, but the suspected militant resisted and died of a heart attack. Tabaldiev said that recent SNB operations have succeeded in eliminating a number of IMU leaders, mainly citizens of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. He commented, "I think that the organization itself is now much less dangerous." DK
 ...AS SECURITY FORCES EXTEND AMNESTY DEADLINETabaldiev said that the SNB is extending a deadline for amnesty for individuals who have aided the IMU or the banned organization Hizb ut-Tahrir until October 1, Interfax reported on September 4. Tabaldiev said, "We are offering people who are helping members of the terrorist movement to surrender. Objective actions will be taken towards them; if these are people who have not participated in crimes, they can expect amnesty or mitigation of [their] punishment." DK
 TAJIK ISLAMIC PARTY GETS NEW LEADERA congress of the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) in Dushanbe on September 2 elected Muhiddin Kabiri party chairman, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Kabiri succeeds Said Abdullo Nuri, who recently died after a long illness (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 10, 2006). Born in 1966, Kabiri studied Arabic at Tajik State University, and has also studied in Yemen and at the Russian Foreign Ministry's Diplomatic Academy. He was elected to the lower chamber of parliament in 2005. Kabiri is considered to be a possible presidential candidate, but it is unclear if he will be nominated by his party. DK
 CHINA TO EXPLORE UZBEK ENERGY RESOURCESChina National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) concluded two contracts to explore oil and gas resources in Uzbekistan, Xinhua reported on September 3. In the first deal, a CNPC affiliate has received the right to explore five onshore blocks in conjunction with Uzbek national oil and gas company Uzbekneftegaz. An Uzbek government source told Interfax that the explorations are slated for 2006-10 and will cost $208.5 million. Additionally, CNPC has gained a 20 percent stake in a consortium to develop natural-gas deposits in the Aral Sea (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 31, 2006). DK
 BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION PARTY PROPOSES 'BLOC FOR INDEPENDENCE'The opposition Belarusian Popular Front (BNF) on September 4 resolved to hold a gathering of opposition politicians, activists of nongovernmental organizations, leaders of cultural associations, prominent public figures, and intellectuals in October in order to form an alliance that could be named the Bloc for Independence, Belapan reported. "The coalition of pro-democratic forces currently experiences a crisis and discord, that is why the forum and the new bloc would allow us to determine a common view of the political situation and find ways out of the crisis," BPF Deputy Chairman Alyaksey Yanukevich said. The opposition Belarusian Party of Communists and Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada) have recently floated the idea of forming a center-left bloc. "Talks about coalitions and so-called blocs make my head go round," United Civic Party (AHP) leader Anatol Lyabedzka said of the initiatives. "The most important thing is that everybody should be acting within one common strategy. The AHP is not going to join any blocs. We would like to cooperate with both left-wing and right-wing groups." JM
 BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT OBJECTS TO PAYING MORE FOR RUSSIAN GAS THAN GERMANYPresident Alyaksandr Lukashenka told journalists in Pinsk, southern Belarus, on September 1 that Belarus will not buy Russian natural gas at a price higher than that Russia charges Germany, Belapan reported. "Russia is selling crude oil to us at a higher price than to Ukraine and has offered a gas price higher than for Germany," Lukashenka said. "We will never buy gas at a higher price than Germany. People [in Belarus] who stayed in the same trenches with Russians [during World War II] have not died yet." According to Lukashenka, Belarus has received offers to develop oil fields in other countries, including Venezuela. "If we carry out this project, we will sell oil there and earn money," he added. In May, Gazprom suggested that Belarus would have to pay $200 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas in 2007, up from the current $46.68. Belarusian economic expert Yaraslau Ramanchuk told "Novye izvestia" on September 4 that Lukashenka will be forced to accept a gas price of $135-$150 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2007. JM
 UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT OPENS AUTUMN SESSIONThe Verkhovna Rada on September 5 inaugurated its autumn session, Ukrainian media reported. Parliament speaker Oleksandr Moroz told lawmakers that their most urgent task during the session will include the adoption of bills on political opposition and on the Cabinet of Ministers. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yanukovych told the parliament that his government will work toward achieving membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO) for Ukraine. "We are planning to join the WTO with no haste, but confidently, with transitional periods for our economic branches and an appropriate protection level for our domestic market," he added. JM
 CRIMEAN TATARS LAUNCH TV CHANNELThe first Tatar-language television station started broadcasting in Crimea on September 1, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported. The station is based in Simferopol and currently covers some 80 percent of the peninsula's territory. "We broadcast in the Crimean Tatar, Ukrainian, and Russian languages, but we primarily work for the Crimean Tatar community," station broadcaster Nadzhiye Femi told RFE/RL. Station director Rydvan Khalilov said the channel will help promote the Crimean Tatar language, culture, and history on the peninsula. JM
 EU FOREIGN-POLICY CHIEF TELLS SERBIA TO IMPROVE WORK WITH ICTYEU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana on September 4 called for "substantial improvement" in Serbia's cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY), AP reported the same day. Solana said such an improvement is necessary before the EU resumes talks on a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA). Brussels suspended the talks with Serbia in May over Belgrade's failure to arrest top ICTY fugitive Ratko Mladic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 4, 2006). Solana said there is "great preparedness and willingness within the EU to resume SAA negotiations with Serbia," but added that "this would, however, require a substantial improvement in the cooperation" with the ICTY. BW
 SERBIA'S UN AMBASSADOR SAYS BELGRADE ACTED TOO LATE ON KOSOVAPavle Jevremovic has said that Belgrade would have secured a better deal on Kosova's final status if it acted to assert its diplomatic interests sooner, B92 reported on September 4. "I think Serbia's active seeking of a Kosovo solution came too late. We have lost valuable time," Jevremovic said in an interview published in the daily "Vecernje novosti." "Shortly after the democratic changes our position was stronger," he added referring to the October 2000 overthrow of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. BW
 THOUSANDS DEMONSTRATE IN NOVI SAD AGAINST NAMING STREET AFTER MILOSEVICApproximately 5,000 demonstrators gathered in Novi Sad on September 1 to protest a plan to name a street in the city after Slobodan Milosevic, international news agencies reported the same day. Many of the demonstrators carried posters of assassinated reformist Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. Others held banners with slogans such as "Let us follow the example of October 5," referring to the date in 2000 when Milosevic was ousted from power. The plan to rename one of Novi Sad's main boulevards after Milosevic was made by members of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), which control the city government. The SPS and SRS are also attempting to rename a street currently named after Djindjic. BW
 BOSNIAN SERB PREMIER SAYS INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM IS INEVITABLEPrime Minister Milorad Dodik said on September 4 that an independence referendum in the Republika Srpska (RS) is unavoidable in the long term, B92 reported the same day. "Kosovo separating would spark people in the RS to think of having equal rights for us to do something like that," Dodik said. "We politicians are trying to subdue such thoughts by people in the RS, but I am sure that 99 percent of Serbs living in the RS would vote in a referendum for the RS to leave Bosnia-Herzegovina. That is the reality." Dodik said that while he does not think Republika Srpska should be independent, he thinks it should have more autonomy within Bosnia. He added, however, that in order to keep the country together, Bosnia's Muslim-Croat Federation needs to give guarantees that the country will not fall under the influence of what he called "radical Islamic politics." BW
 CONVICTED WAR CRIMINAL COMMITS SUICIDE IN BOSNIAA Bosnian Serb convicted of war crimes by the ICTY apparently committed suicide in Bosnia-Herzegovina on September 2, dpa and AP reported the next day. Citing police spokeswoman Tamara Despenic, AP reported that Stevan Todorovic's body was found on September 2 with a gunshot wound to the head and with a pistol in his hand in the yard of his house in the northeastern Bosnian town of Samac. In July 2001, the Hague tribunal sentenced Todorovic to 10 years in prison for murdering, torturing, and sexually assaulting Muslims and Croats in 1992-93 while he was police chief in Bosanski Samac (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 1, 2001). He was released in 2005. BW
 OSCE HAILS ALBANIAN COMPROMISE ON LOCAL ELECTIONSThe Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on September 1 hailed a compromise in Albania that will allow municipal elections to be held on schedule, AP reported the same day. Prime Minister Sali Berisha, head of the Democratic Party, and Tirana Mayor Edi Rama, leader of the opposition Socialist Party, announced on August 31 that they have reached a deal allowing for elections at some time between November 20 and January 20, 2007. "I believe the agreement opens the way for a constructive relationship between the majority and the opposition and toward their cooperation in pursuing the key domestic reforms," Pavel Vacek, head of the OSCE Mission in Albania, said. The two sides agreed to increase the number of Central Election Commission members, extend the terms of elected local government officials from three to four years, to update voter lists, and to add two new members to the National Council of Radio and Television as part of an effort to give the opposition more representation. BW
 MOLDOVA PLANS QUALITY-CONTROL CENTER FOR WINE EXPORTSMoldova plans to establish an internationally accredited testing center to assure the quality of its exported wine, RBC reported on September 1. Citing an unidentified member of the Moldovan government's press office, RBC reported that Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev discussed creating the center at a cabinet meeting. According to RBC, Tarlev stressed that tough market competition makes it necessary to tighten quality controls on Moldovan exports. Russia banned the import of Moldovan and Georgian wines in late March, citing health and safety concerns (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 28, 2006). BW
Southwestern Asia And The Middle East
 UNODC SAYS AFGHAN OPIUM CULTIVATION MORE WIDESPREAD THAN EVERThe UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) concludes in its "Annual Opium Survey for Afghanistan" that opium cultivation accounts for a record 165,000 hectares, versus 104,000 hectares in 2005, according to a UNODC press release on September 4. The report was presented to Afghan President Hamid Karzai on September 2. In the restive Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan, opium cultivation has soared 162 percent, to 69,324 hectares, over the same period. "These are very alarming numbers," UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa was quoted as saying. "Afghanistan is increasingly hooked on its own drug." Costa said the opium supply from Afghanistan is expected to exceed 6,100 tons in 2006, which would amount to 92 percent of estimated world supplies. Afghanistan's opium supply already "exceeds global consumption by 30 percent," Costa said. A detailed summary of the UNODC is to be released to the public later this month, with a complete version to follow in October. Just six of Afghanistan's 34 provinces are opium-free, Costa said. In a critical message aimed at Kabul, Costa said his and other counternarcotics agencies "trained police and prosecutors...[and] constructed court houses and detention centers. Now the [Afghan] government has the responsibility to use the judicial system to impose the rule of law and reestablish confidence in Kabul." He called for an example to be set through "significant arrests and convictions." AT
 BRITISH SUSPECT FIRE IN PATROL AIRCRAFT'S CRASH...The crew of the British Nimrod MR2 reconnaissance jet that crashed in southern Afghanistan on September 2, killing 14 British military personnel, reported a fired on board shortly before the crash, the BBC reported on September 4. U.K. Chief of Defense Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy said that after a routine midair refueling, the plane sent a stress call "connected with fire." The crash, which occurred in Kandahar Province, increased the number of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan to 37 since November 2001. There are currently around 5,500 British troops in Afghanistan, and the United Kingdom currently leads the NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). AT
 ...WHILE NEO-TALIBAN CLAIM TO HAVE DOWNED PLANEA website purporting to represent the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan -- the name of the country during the rule of the Taliban -- claimed on September 2 that "mujahedin" brought down an "American" fighter jet that was engaged in a bombing run in the Panjwayi district of Kandahar Province. U.K. Defense Secretary Des Browne called the claim "propaganda," saying the Nimrod's crash was an accident, the Press Association reported on September 3. "The Taliban regularly lie in response to events in Afghanistan," Browne added. AT
 AFGHAN CIVILIANS, U.K. SOLDIER KILLED IN KABUL SUICIDE BOMBINGA British military convoy was attacked by an apparent suicide bomber in Kabul on September 4, killing four Afghan passersby and killing one British soldier and "very seriously" injuring another, according to a CBS News report and an announcement by the British Defense Ministry. AT
 FOUR CANADIAN SOLDIERS KILLED IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN...Four Canadian troops serving with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) died in a battle with Taliban fighters in Kandahar Province on September 3, according to a press release from the Canadian Defense Ministry. The battle was part of Operation Medusa, which began on September 2 as a "significant combined effort [by] the Afghan National Security Forces" and Canadian and other ISAF members. Operation Medusa is aimed at eliminating "armed militants" from the Panjwayi and Zhari districts. AT
 ...AND ANOTHER CANADIAN IS KILLED IN FRIENDLY-FIRE INCIDENTOne Canadian soldier was killed and five others wounded during an aerial attack by friendly forces in Kandahar Province on September 4, AP reported. An ISAF press release the same day said the mishap occurred during Operation Medusa. The ISAF has ordered an investigation into the incident. A bomb dropped by a U.S. aircraft killed four Canadians in Kandahar in April 2002. AT
 IRAN UNCOMPROMISING ON NUCLEAR PROGRAMUN Secretary-General Kofi Annan visited Iran on September 2 and 3, Radio Farda and other news agencies reported. After meeting with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad on September 3, Annan said at a press conference with Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki that he was told Iran will not stop its uranium-enrichment program but is willing to enter negotiations regarding the nuclear program. Mottaki described Security Council Resolution 1696 of late July, which calls on Iran to halt its enrichment and reprocessing activities, as politically motivated and the result of pressure from the United States and Britain. Annan also noted that Ahmadinejad restated Iran's backing for Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the recent Israel-Hizballah conflict. Tehran has not agreed to back the disarmament of Hizballah, Annan's aides said, according to "The New York Times." BS
 IRAN TESTS NEW EQUIPMENT DURING WAR GAMES...The Zarbat-i Zolfaqar war games, which began on August 19, are continuing, with the firing of a modified Hawk missile from a U.S.-manufactured F-14 aircraft on September 4, state television reported. During this third stage of the exercises, antiaircraft artillery, missiles, surface-to-air weapons, and electronic countermeasures were tested. A deputy commander of the army, identified as Brigadier General Amin, said the navigation systems of enemy missiles were disrupted using equipment developed by the Iranian air force and Defense Ministry. BS
 ...AS IT ANNOUNCES AEROSPACE DEVELOPMENTSRasul Peighambari, the managing director of the Negin Pars Company, said on September 4 that his firm has developed radar-deflecting and radar-absorbing paints, Mehr News Agency reported. Seven tons of camouflage and 50 tons of antiradar paint have been produced so far, he said, and Iran no longer needs to import such products. One day earlier, Mohammad Islami, the head of the defense industry's training and education institute, said his organization and the Shahid Beheshti University have successfully collaborated in building a "nondestructive laser testing system for testing thermal and mechanical effects on satellites in space, as well as designing and building a plasma thruster," ILNA reported. Islami explained, "Thrusters are little engines that are used for controlling and correcting the movement of dynamic systems such as satellites." BS
 IRAN EAGER TO HELP RECONSTRUCT LEBANONParliament speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel said during a September 4 phone conversation with his Lebanese counterpart, Nabih Berri, that Iran is ready to lend a hand in rebuilding Lebanon, IRNA reported. Haddad-Adel also said Israel's blockade of Lebanon is a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which brought an end to the one-month conflict triggered by Hizballah's cross-border raid and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers on July 12. Haddad-Adel added, "The occupying regime of Qods [Israel] thrives on bloodshed, violations of international rules and regulations, and the massacre of defenseless women and children." Iranian Vice President for Executive Affairs Ali Saidlu, Minister of Housing and Urban Development Mohammad Saidi-Kia, and a delegation of other Iranian officials arrived in Beirut on August 29, Hizballah's Al-Manar television and IRNA reported. During a press conference later that day, Saidlu pledged Iran's assistance in reconstructing Lebanon and said delegations from "a number of Iranian municipalities that enjoy good financial status" -- such as Tehran, Mashhad, and Isfahan -- could contribute, Al-Manar reported. BS
 CONTRADICTORY PERSPECTIVES ON IRANIAN BACKING FOR HIZBALLAH LEADERIsraeli Interior Minister Avi Dichter said in an interview published in Turin's "La Stampa" on September 4 that Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah acted contrary to Iranian desires by attacking Israel hastily, and Hizballah gained nothing worthwhile in the conflict. Therefore, he continued, "Nasrallah is in trouble." Dichter pointed at Iranian support for Hamas and Hizballah, as well as its alleged pursuit of a nuclear weapon and intention to "use it in order to destroy us and to beat the entire West." "Ahmadinejad truly is the new Hitler," Dichter said, adding that Ahmadinejad wants to attack Israel, but he recognizes "attacking Israel is no joke." Grand Ayatollah Lotfullah Safi-Golpayegani has a different perspective, "Kayhan" reported on September 3. He said, "The Hizballah in Lebanon and its secretary-general, Hojatoleslam val-Moslemin Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, are a source of pride for the Islamic world." Safi-Golpayegani criticized those who passed religious decrees against Hizballah's actions during the conflict with Israel and accused them of siding with Israel indirectly. BS
 U.K. FOREIGN SECRETARY SAYS IRAQI SECURITY HANDOVER 'KEY'Margaret Beckett, on her first official visit to Iraq, said on September 5 in Baghdad that her government is determined to hand over more responsibility for security to Iraqis, Reuters reported. "It is absolutely key that responsibility be transferred to...the elected government of Iraq," she told reporters after a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih. Meanwhile, an agreement on the gradual transfer of operational command from the U.S. to the Iraqi military hit a snag due to the wording of the document, Reuters reported on September 4. "Both sides have agreed on the main issues. I think the document is ready to be signed, probably by the end of this week or early next week," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said, adding that remaining disagreements are "technicalities." DW
 IRAQI PREMIER TELLS KURDS TO FLY NATIONAL FLAGFollowing an order by Kurdish regional President Mas'ud Barzani to hoist the Kurdish flag on official buildings in place of the Iraqi flag, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on September 3 that only the Iraqi flag "should be raised over any square inch of Iraq," Reuters reported. However, government spokesman al-Dabbagh said on September 4 that the government understands that a new flag with no connection to the former regime of Saddam Hussein is important to the Kurds. "Due to such issues, there will be certain priorities in order to advance approving a new flag," he said. "It was not urgent but now it is more urgent." Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, also backed changing the flag, and described the current one as "the Saddamist flag, stained with the blood of hundreds of thousands." DW
 GOVERNMENT SAYS AL-QAEDA'S NO. 2 IN IRAQ CAPTUREDIraqi National Security Adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i announced on September 3 that the second-in-command of al-Qaeda in Iraq has been arrested, international media reported the same day. The man, identified as Hamid Juma al-Saidi, was named as one of the organizers of the February bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in the city of Samarra. Al-Rubay'i said al-Saidi provided information that has led to the arrest or death of 11 other top figures of Al-Qaeda in Iraq and nine lower-level members. The Mujahedin Shura Council, which is affiliated with Al-Qaeda in Iraq, dismissed the claim in an Internet statement as propaganda, AFP reported on September 4. "We do not know how many deputy leaders they arrested and how many lies they have invented," the statement said. DW
 U.S. INVESTIGATOR RECOMMENDS COURT-MARTIAL IN AL-MAHMUDIYAH RAPE CASEAn investigator for the U.S. Army has recommended a court-martial for four U.S. soldiers accused of raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and then killing her along with three members of her family (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," August 7, 2006), Reuters reported on September 5. "The investigating officer recommended that my client and the other three soldiers face a general court-martial," defense lawyer David Sheldon said. The soldiers could face the death penalty. DW
 IRANIAN INTELLECTUAL EMERGES FROM JAIL TO ACCUSE U.S.By Golnaz Esfandiari
A prominent Iranian philosopher has emerged from four months of detention with claims that he was an unwitting victim of U.S. efforts to undermine the Iranian government. Ramin Jahanbegloo told the official ISNA news agency that contacts with Western individuals and organizations had led to his being duped into "political" rather than philosophical work.
Within hours of his release on August 30, Jahanbegloo was admitting to ISNA that he unknowingly acted against Iran's interests. He said he had written articles for websites that had ties to "security agents." He also said U.S. and Israeli security agents were present at conferences he had attended.
Jahanbegloo, a prominent writer on democratization, said that during his prison term he felt U.S. organizations put him in an uncomfortable position. He said he sees himself as a victim, and added that he "deviated" from philosophical research toward "political work."
Jahanbegloo accepted that he "acted against national security through contacts with foreigners." But he noted that had not been charged with espionage.
Ostensibly voluntary confessions by dissidents during detention or shortly after their release are a common occurrence in the Islamic republic. Iranian writer and journalist Faraj Sarkouhi issued similar statements several years ago. He told Radio Farda from exile abroad that authorities use such interviews to lend weight to "false" charges.
"In these interviews, they determine certain angles for the accused or victim, so that he talks about them in the interview," Sarkouhi said. "This is exactly like the interview security officials forced me to do at the airport. They had brought me from prison, but they were claiming that I had just returned from a trip to Germany."
Payam Akhavan, a professor of international law at Montreal's McGill University and a former UN war crimes prosecutor at The Hague, is part of a group of academics that appealed for Jahanbegloo's release. Akhavan said he saw signs that authorities had stage-managed Jahanbegloo's interview. He told RFE/RL that the interview should be seen in the context of the four months that Jahanbegloo spent at Tehran's Evin prison.
"Even if he was not physically tortured, prolonged solitary confinement qualifies as a form of psychological torture -- sensory deprivation, being in a confined space where a light is on 24 hours a day [and] where you have no contact with the outside world," Akhavan said. "You lose your sense of day and night. This can seriously disorient people. And we also don't know yet what threats, coercion, or inducements he might have received while in prison."
Akhavan said that the statements could be part of a deal forced on Jahanbegloo to win his release. "I believe there has been a deal here that he would perhaps make a confession and perhaps refrain from certain activities in exchange for being released from prison," he said. "Part of the deal, I suspect, is that he not speak with the foreign press -- or at least if he speaks, he would not say anything different from his confessions."
Jahanbegloo said in his interview that he had to surrender the deeds of two homes as bail, and that his case is still before Tehran's Revolutionary Court.
While he said his life behind bars was difficult, Jahanbegloo repeated several times that he was not subjected to physical or psychological pressure. He said his interrogators had treated him "politely."
Jahanbegloo, who was arrested at Tehran airport in late April, said his contacts with foreigners began in the late 1990s after he went from Canada to Harvard University. He singled out a scholarship with the National Endowment for Democracy and claimed the chain of events leading to his arrest began when he went to Washington for the 2001-02 academic year. He said his contacts with U.S. institutions led to meetings with individuals from the U.S. State Department.
Jahanbegloo also warned that other members of Iranian academia and civil society are in danger of falling into the same trap. He claimed that invitations to conferences, grants, and contact with U.S. institutions are a slippery slope that threatens Iranian national interests.
For the exiled writer Sarkouhi, the message the Islamic establishment wanted to convey with Jahanbegloo's confession is clear. "Intellectuals and academics and those involved in cultural activities should avoid cultural contacts with the world's cultural institutions -- otherwise they will face the same fate that Mr. Jahanbegloo faced," Sarkhouhi said.
Jahanbegloo, a Harvard- and Sorbonne-educated philosopher, has published more than 20 books in English, French, and Persian. Hundreds of prominent Iranian and Western intellectuals and several human rights organizations called for his release.
(Golnaz Esfandiari is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague.)